DRUG DRIVING HITS NEW ‘HIGH’
Number of motorists charged with drug-driving has increased by 140%1 across the UK in the last year
The number of motorists charged with drug-driving has seen a dramatic rise over the last 12 months - increasing by 140% - according to new freedom of information data obtained by Confused.com.
Research from the leading price comparison site reveals that in 2015, 2,090 motorists were charged with drug-driving, compared with just 870 in 2014. This staggering rise coincides with changes to drug-driving laws that came into effect in March 2015, which saw new road-side drug screening devices introduced, alongside new drug limits for a wider variety of drugs – both illegal and prescription2.
The FOI data obtained reveals some of the most common drugs that drivers have been pulled over under the influence of. And while it’s not unexpected that they include class A-C drugs such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, ketamine and cannabis – it might be surprising to know this includes prescription medication such as diazepam and codeine.
And of the one in seven (15%) drivers who have admitted to drug driving, the majority were taking prescription medication rather than illegal drugs. In fact, British motorists are four times more likely to drive under the influence of legal drugs than their contraband counterparts – 12% to 3%.
While most motorists may well be aware of the obvious implications of driving whilst under the influence of illegal class A drugs, many are unaware of how the law applies to driving when using prescription drugs. Of those who admit to driving whilst under the influence of drugs, one in eight (12%) claim to have taken prescription medication. However, a lack of awareness could be to blame for many, as a fifth (20%) of motorists say they did not know that it is an offence to drive when taking certain prescription medication if it affects someone’s driving.
And as hay fever season strikes Britain, and motorists across the country look to ‘dose-up’ on medication to relieve streaming eyes and runny noses, the debate about drug-driving is once again in full bloom. More than a third of motorists (34%) claim to suffer from hay fever, with nearly two-thirds of hay fever sufferers (64%) admitting to driving after taking medication to treat the allergy, despite the potential risks of drowsiness and reduced concentration levels.
However, it would seem that many motorists don’t understand that driving mixed with some over-the-counter remedies could result in serious consequences. Worryingly, one in 15 motorists (7%) who suffer from hay fever admit that their ability to drive has been impaired whilst under the influence of medication. And disturbingly, 4% of these motorists have had an accident as a result of driving after taking such medication.
So, perhaps then it may come as no surprise that many Brits feel strongly about drug driving, with more than half (51%) saying that no one should be allowed to drive whilst under the influence of drugs.
Yet with more than a third (34%) of motorists suffering from hay fever, it is understandable that many may have to resort to taking remedies to help them combat their allergies. And according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society many prescription and over-the-counter medications, including some hay fever medications, can have side-effects. In fact, the most common side effects of motorists who suffer from hay fever who feel their driving has been impaired by hay fever medication included drowsiness (55%), feeling lethargic (35%) and blurry vision (35%).
Despite guidance leaflets being provide with prescription and over the counter medication, when it comes to the recommended guidelines for taking hay fever medication, many Brits are showing a flagrant disregard to the advice being given and warning information provided with the medication. In fact more than one in 7 (15%) motorists who suffer from hay fever admit to not reading the advice leaflet. And worryingly, one in 15 (7%) Brits admit to not sticking to the recommended dose too, with 3% saying they didn’t realise there was a recommended dose for the medication.
Amanda Stretton, former racing driver and motoring editor at Confused.com says:
“It’s worrying to see that so many motorists admit to driving whilst under the influence of drugs (15%) – both prescription (12%) and illegal (3%). However, it would seem that new drug driving laws introduced early last year (March 2015) seem to be having an impact, with the number of drug driving arrests increasing by 140%. This means more motorists who are found to have broken the law are being caught, which in turn will help to make our roads a safer place.
“There is however, another area for concern around the level of awareness amongst drivers when it comes to how certain medications can affect a person’s driving ability. This is particularly alarming given the current time of year, especially as more than a third (34%) of motorists admit to suffering from hay fever, with many resorting to medication to help combat the symptoms - despite the potential risks of drowsiness and reduced concentration levels
“Our advice is simple, before taking any medication people should always read the safety leaflet before driving. Or if unsure they should ask the pharmacist or err on the side of caution and don’t drive, as road safety for themselves and others should be a top priority for any driver.”
Notes to Editors
Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll research on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK motorists that drive regularly. The research was conducted between 24th March and 29th March 2016.
1.Confused.com issued an FOI request to all 45 Police Forces in England, Scotland and Wales. Of these 25 responded. The FOI request asked Police Forces:
How many motorists in your force area were charged with driving under the influence of drugs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and so far in 2016 (Jan – Feb).
Can you please provide a breakdown of the different substances/drugs that motorists were caught using whilst driving in the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and so far in 2016 (Jan – Feb). Please provide a breakdown for each year.
If possible, please further categorise these for type of drugs, including illegal, prescription or over the counter medication.
The 140% figure was calculated by figures supplied from all Police constabularies that provided data for both years - 2014 & 2015.
In 2014, 870 motorists were charged with driving under the influence of drugs compared with 2,090 in 2015.